It’s been referred several times that Rowling modelled Hogwarts after standard UK structure for schools, which makes sense given she attended those.

Stuff like OWLS and NEWTs are modelled around normal tests in UK (GCE and A levels I think). So are other things around the general structure.

Is it usual in the UK for students to also be sorted around into houses or groups or is that an invention by Rowling with no base on real life?

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    Well, I don't think the house system in most real world UK schools involves a magical talking hat....
    – RDFozz
    Jan 25, 2019 at 21:05
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    @RDFozz - Interestingly, Eton houses are assigned by personality after interview (or at least according to study area and interests if they're an overseas student) so the whole "sorting hat" thing isn't quite so far fetched as all that
    – Valorum
    Jan 25, 2019 at 22:12
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    As the OP I’d say this is, indeed, a duplicate. Note that the remark on the duplicate is “this question already has an answer here”. Duplicates are not deleted (so they’ll remain for other performing the search and will help them find the answer to this). @Martha you should not feel offended by duplicates as long as the original question answers your question well (which is this case). If it doesn’t then you can argue why it doesn’t... duplicate flag is not judging the original poster, it’s just a way to improve the site and prevent duplicate topics or answers. Jan 26, 2019 at 8:33
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    There's preventing duplicates, and then there's "let's prevent new contributions to the site at all costs, so if an answer happens to mention something in an aside that if you squint and tilt your head just right can be interpreted as being semi-related to this new question, KILL THE NEW QUESTION WITH FIRE."
    – Martha
    Jan 27, 2019 at 1:09

2 Answers 2


The house system is well-established in British schools, and goes back hundreds of years. It originated (and was most common) in boarding schools like Hogwarts, where the students live on the school grounds, and the houses they're sorted into are the houses in which they actually live. Again, just like Hogwarts.

It's worth noting that the popularity of Harry Potter has actually caused house systems to become more common in British schools, especially "day schools" (the regular kind of school where you don't live on campus). The secondary school I went to initiated a house system in the year I started there, and just like Hogwarts, the houses were blue, green, yellow, and red, and had animal-themed names. So it's usual now, but I wouldn't say it was usual at the time Philosopher's Stone came out. It just so happens that Harry Potter caused the house system concept to explode in popularity over here.

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    Just a little nitpicking: when you need 4 different colors (let alone having the additional constraint of being able to use them as accent colors on clothes and school items), selecting blue, green, yellow and red is virtually unavoidable rather than a deliberately HP-themed choice. For example, I think almost all 4-player boardgames use tokens in these colors.
    – lfurini
    Jan 25, 2019 at 21:23
  • Here in New Zealand our day schools used house systems at least as far back as the 80s, long before HP. (The houses were mostly only relevant during sports days, however, at least at my school.) Jan 25, 2019 at 21:28
  • My primary school (so the 1970's) was a normal day school not a boarding school & did have a house system (mainly just for sports, not other activities), there were 4 houses & each had it's own color & was named after a local company that had donated to the school in the past (none were still in business by the time I attended, at least not locally) : my secondary school didn't however, so I'd say it was definitely not unusual (including when JK would have been schooled), but may have gone a bit out of fashion later.
    – Pelinore
    Jan 26, 2019 at 1:16
  • My high school in the USA didn't have houses, but one day each year there was an event called color day when the students were divided into red and blue factions and competed against each other in sports. And I believe I was a red for all 6 years so that assignment was apparently permanent. Jan 26, 2019 at 18:14

House Systems are an integral part of English school tradition that has been passed on to old English colonies like India . The colours are often Blue, Green, Red and Yellow with the houses being named after famous leaders or in a few instances, rivers and ancient universities. There are even house masters and house mistresses with each house having prefects and sports captains with inter house rivalry existing ranging from the sports fields to the debate and quiz competitions.

However, sorting is not done on the basis of personality. It is often absolutely random and is done to ensure that each house has more or less the same number of students.

  • Eton house selection is (partially) done on the basis of personality.
    – Valorum
    Jan 25, 2019 at 22:13
  • @Valorum I don't think that Eton even has a house system as we think of it, instead dividing it's students into boarding houses with 50 or so boys.
    – Neo Darwin
    Jan 26, 2019 at 3:04
  • You are correct
    – Valorum
    Jan 26, 2019 at 7:36

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